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Trump Administration Finalizes Sweeping Rollbacks to Endangered Species Act Regs

Interior Administrator Bernhardt chips away at bedrock conservation law as a hand out to industry

WASHINGTON - The Trump administration today finalized dramatic rollbacks to the rules that implement the Endangered Species Act, attempting to weaken the critical and popular environmental law that serves as the last safety net for animals and plants facing extinction. Overseeing these rollbacks is Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for oil & gas and other industries that stand to benefit directly from these changes. The rollbacks further imperil hundreds of species and violate the spirit and purpose of the law itself.

The following is a statement from Drew Caputo, Earthjustice Vice President of Litigation for Lands, Wildlife, and Oceans: 

“This effort to gut protections for endangered and threatened species has the same two features of most Trump administration actions: it's a gift to industry, and it's illegal. We'll see the Trump administration in court about it.”

President Trump and Interior Secretary Bernhardt’s plan would weaken endangered species protections by:

  • Allowing for a listed species’ slow slide into oblivion by permitting actions that lead to the gradual destruction of a listed species as long as each step is sufficiently modest;
  • Allowing agencies to rely on empty promises of vague or uncertain steps to minimize harm to listed species in order to justify taking actions that harm endangered species; 
  • Creating a loophole exempting activities that could harm listed species by hastening climate change;
  • Injecting economic consideration into what must be purely science-based decisions about listing imperiled species; and
  • Depriving newly listed threatened species from automatically receiving protections from killing, trapping, and other forms of harm and commercial exploitation.

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“We’ll be reviewing these changes today, but I can promise you that there is nothing in these new regulations that helps protect threatened and endangered species.” said Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice attorney, who is reviewing the regulatory changes.

The Endangered Species Act has prevented more than 99 percent of listed species from going extinct. It is also wildly popular, with 90% of Americans supporting the Act.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has attempted to roll back health, safety, and environmental regulations to advance corporate and polluter interests. In response, Earthjustice has filed more than 100 lawsuits to aggressively defend the protections that make our environment healthier and our communities safer. The federal courts have been handing Trump one loss after another, ruling that the administration cannot flout the requirements of existing environmental laws.

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Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.

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